2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport front 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Michael Harley
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport rear 3/4 view
  • Image Credit: Michael Harley
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Performance Is Not Only Reserved For The AMG Badge

If someone asked you to name a moderately priced, fun-to-drive, compact, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan, the BMW 328i would likely be the first vehicle that pops to mind. After that, other four-door models like the Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS250 and even the Audi A4 (if you are willing to accept its rear-bias all-wheel-drive system) would follow suit. The Mercedes-Benz C250 would eventually make the list, but that luxury-oriented sedan would likely be near the bottom.

But what if an entry-level C-Class could be configured to run with a sporty 3 Series, and not just at the AMG level?

To answer that question, we spent a full week with a 2013 C250 Sport that was fitted with a few choice options that bumped its athletic demeanor several notches, yet still kept its sticker price from hitting the stratosphere.
2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport side view2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport front view2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport rear view

Mercedes-Benz launched the all-new third-generation C-Class (internal code W204) at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show for the 2008 model year. The four-door received a mid-cycle refresh in 2011 (shown at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show) that introduced a revised seven-speed gearbox and a refreshed, more upscale interior to better align it with its more expensive siblings. But that wasn't all, as Mercedes also treated its smallest sedan to a slew of exterior cosmetic enhancements, new driving assistance systems and next-generation telematics. The upgrades were comprehensive and very stylish, likely explaining why the Mars Red sedan in our driveway turned heads everywhere it went.

Added all up, this car's grand total was $42,355.

Our particular test car was a 2013 C250 Sedan with a base price of $36,255 (including a $905 destination fee). Its most expensive option was the Dynamic Sport package ($3,050), which added the unique seven split-spoke 18-inch wheels, AMG rear spoiler, sport seats in MB-Tex/Dinamica, red seat belts, red contrasting stitching, sport steering wheel, Advanced Agility Suspension and speed sensitive steering. The Premium 1 package ($2,500) added Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, 10-way power driver's seat, power lumbar, power steering column, split-folding rear seats, Harmon-Kardon surround sound audio package and other enhancements. The remaining two options were the rear decklid spoiler ($300) and a special order fee ($250). Added all up, this car's grand total was $42,355.

But our test car was missing a few desirable options. Had we added navigation ($2,790) and xenon headlights ($1,290), our price would have jumped to $46,435 – that's a big jump over its base price.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport grille2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport headlight2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport wheel2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport

While a swelling sticker price may push it near the top of the segment, its physical dimensions keep it at the bottom. The C-Class sedan has a 108.7 inch wheelbase, the shortest in its competitive grouping, and its overall length trails all of the others by an inch or two. While those tiny numbers won't really affect the ride and handling, they do translate to a slightly smaller passenger cabin, especially for those in the back seat.

During our week, not a single occupant complained about a lack of room.

Yet during our week, not a single occupant complained about a lack of room. Even though some were rubbing their knees on the seatbacks, the passenger cabin of the baby Benz diverted everyone's attention with its sporty, yet tasteful, appointments. Everyone liked the bold red seatbelts and contrasting upholstery with subtle red stitching. There was just the right amount of bright aluminum trim splashed through the cabin to offset the heaviness of the black carpets, dash and headliner too. We especially liked the heavy-duty fabric floor mats with red piping, which proved very easy to clean.

With regards to the rest of the cabin, the door-mounted seat controls are handy and the large lock/unlock switches next to the door handles logically placed. The primary instruments, with light backgrounds, were easy to read and the steering wheel felt great in our hands. The climate controls were easy to use and the "max cool" and "off" buttons conveniently reduced the number of buttons we had to push. Praises aside, we still don't like the COMAND infotainment interface and its counterintuitive logic. And why is there a NAV button on the center stack when there is no navigation system? (A reader pointed out that NAV may be added afterwards via the Becker Map Pilot plug-and-play system that hides in the glovebox - Ed.)

2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport interior2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport front seats2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport rear seats2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport floor mat

With the exception of Lexus, which still holds out with a V6 in its entry-level sedan, most in the segment are running inline four-cylinder engines with forced induction. As such, the C250 is fitted with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder. The thoroughly modern aluminum engine is rated at 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, making it slightly less powerful than the standard 2.5-liter six in the Lexus and the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder offered by BMW, Audi and Cadillac in the States. Bolted to the back of the longitudinally mounted engine is a seven-speed automatic transmission (7G-Tronic Plus) sending power to the rear wheels.

Sport activated, a full throttle launch will deliver 60 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds.

This is a good point to mention the "sport" button, found just above the driver's temperature control about mid-way up the center console. When activated (a red light on the silver face illuminates), the electronically controlled adaptive dampers firm up, the steering becomes heavier and the throttle response is quicker. Most importantly, the C250 launches from a stop in first gear instead of second. That little button is worth its weight in unobtainium, as it completely transforms the character of the sedan.

Sport activated, a full throttle launch will deliver 60 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds, proving that the turbocharged four-banger works every bit as hard as its burlier rivals – it felt positively underrated from behind the wheel. Shifts from the automatic transmission were firm, maybe too firm for some, but those yearning for sport over luxury won't mind one bit. We liked the seven-cog gearbox, but found the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters a bit gimmicky as there isn't enough engine compression to use them for braking. Plus, their response to inputs was a bit lethargic.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport engine

The chassis was impressively rigid, and we didn't hear a squeak from the interior all week.

Those who associate Mercedes-Benz with a cushy ride may be slightly disappointed. The C250 Sport with the Agility Control upgrade has continuously variable electro-hydraulic dampers that deliver a ride on the firm side of the comfort meter. We liked it, as its competent body control complemented excellent grip from the Continental ContiSport tires (turning the Sport button off makes the ride slightly softer, but never mushy). We met zero resistance when tossing the sedan into a corner, and the Gs quickly built when we dialed in more steering to close each turn. The chassis was impressively rigid, and we didn't hear a squeak from the interior all week. Our only letdown came from the steering effort. It was dead accurate and nicely weighed, but we like more feedback in a vehicle with such a sporty driving demeanor.

When it comes to braking, Mercedes has fitted the C250 with sporty drilled rotors at all four corners. They look cool, but the little holes actually reduce the pad's friction surface area and make the rotors more expensive to replace. Nevertheless, the pedal feel from the driver's seat was excellent, braking distances were short and they never let us down. Drilled rotors sometimes make excessive noise, but we found these pleasantly quiet.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport rear 3/4 view

We looked forward to turning its key every morning.

It is important to mention fuel economy, thus explaining why today's entry-level Mercedes is fitted with a four-cylinder engine and not the V6 of its predecessor. The EPA rates the 1.8-liter at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined, on premium gasoline. To see how far we have come in just six years, consider that the 2007 C230, with a 2.5-liter V6, was rated at a much lower 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. We didn't have any problem hitting the highway numbers during steady-state cruising, but our heavy foot dropped our city driving cycles into the teens. We suggest deactivating the Sport button and wearing lighter shoes to hit the EPA's numbers. A generous 17.4-gallon fuel tank, the largest among its competitive set, gives the Mercedes a strong cruising range on the highway and reduces the frequency of trips to the gas station.

As you can probably tell, we really liked the Mercedes-Benz C250 Sedan. Even though it receives a few demerits for interior space and some questionable ergonomics, this compact sedan is fuel efficient, sporty and very fun-to-drive – we looked forward to turning its key every morning. While we can't state that it is definitively better overall than the benchmark BMW 328i without a head-to-head comparison, we will say that the Mercedes-Benz C250 Sport has earned a spot on our vaulted sport sedan podium.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      I recently spent an afternoon zipping around Houston in one of these...similarly equipped, that is. Other than lacking nav (insane, inexcuseable at over $40K !!!) I was elated with the car\'s performance. There is just something satisfying in the engineering wholeness: just-right steering, peppy powertrain, chassis tuning, solid door thunk, satisfying switchgear. I\'ve found a similar level of engineering wholeness is BMWs and even Volkswagens. It must be a Euro thing. By comparision, my former car, a 2013 Caddy ATS 3.6, felt harsh and lacked the drivetrain refinement of the MB C250. If I\'d only gone with the MB in the first place....oh, buyer\'s remorse.
      Paul M
      • 2 Years Ago
      Let me get this straight... you got an "AMG rear spoiler" with the Dynamic Sport package, and then paid another $300 for a "rear decklid spoiler"? Yeah, it's not hard to make a Mercedes expensive when you pay for things twice. :) In all seriousness, I think the MB is a great looking car, but I agree it's down on power (and you can no longer get a manual). I test drove a sport model back when you could get a manual with the V6, and launched it (accidentally) over a small incline with railroad tracks... while in mid-flight, I panicked at the damage I was about to inflict, but when it landed, it was solid as a rock with nary a squeak or groan. THAT is why you buy a Mercedes.
        Michael Harley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Paul M
        Yes, that is correct. However, I didn't pay for it... it was a free press car (see the disclaimer at the bottom of the story). - Mike
      • 2 Years Ago
      this design is so dated compared to the new benz '-A' designs. is the new body style coming in 2014 or 2015?
        • 2 Years Ago
        also why has the 3 series subtly evolved into something much better than it looked in 2007 while this is still the same exact design?
          • 2 Years Ago
          Because the 3-Series had a total redesign. Also, I think a lot of people would argue that the F30 looks works than the E90. I certainly would. The E90 was one of my favorite BMW designs of all time, the F30 just looks bland.
          • 2 Years Ago
          In 2007 Mercedes was still selling the W203 and the BMW at the time (E90) was in mid-life cycle
      • 2 Years Ago
      Compared to a fully loaded 328i, which will make a 335i blush, this doesn\'t seem too bad. Kudos to MB for making a concerted effort at a more sporty C-Class.
      • 2 Years Ago
      They took out the nice projector headlamps. =(
        • 2 Years Ago
        • 2 Years Ago
        Opt for HID's then.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I love MBs, but I'm not really sure why someone would buy this when they could get a Civic Si for $22k. They're the same size (but the Civic is roomier), have the same standard features, the Civic has great resale and a Honda reliability record, plus a Honda driving experience.
        • 2 Years Ago
        You're seriously comparing a Civic to a C-Class? Have you driven both, let alone even sat in both? Trust me there's a considerably noticeable difference.
          • 2 Years Ago
          Not saying I agree. But first... the Benz CLA250 looks good. Second.... at the car show, Honda Accord impressed me with fit & finish. Mercedes-Benz did not impress. I own an older Benz.
          Doug Danzeisen Sr
          • 2 Years Ago
          I have driven Civics and Benz models. Not the same type of experience for those who value cars, but for transportation value, the Civic does trump the C class. If you are making payments, but the cheaper one, if you have the cash, buy what you want.
        • 11 Months Ago

        You pull up in your civic and I'll pull up in my Benz and let's see who gets treated with respect.   Unless we're still living in the fast and furious fantasy world I'd take my Benz every day over a hopped up Japanese economy car. 

        • 2 Years Ago
        Likely the dumbest comment like ever. M
          • 2 Years Ago
          Have you read any of his other comments? Equally as bad.
        • 2 Years Ago
        \"Honda driving experience\" Seriously? Yeah, pay less and get a boring experience. There, I fixed it for you.
        • 2 Years Ago
        " plus a Honda driving experience." Best comment on this article. Upvote this man. I live for a Honda driving experience.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I worked at an MB dealership with this car. Hard to compete with BMW's 328i, seeing as the BMW is faster, better MPG, just as safe, more powerful, Xenon bulbs are more available, and it's generally much cheaper. I couldn't figure out why people would want a C250, not to mention it's kind of ugly.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Looks are subjective, so that is a poor basis for any intelligent discussion. I have noticed the used car prices are a little better on the C class vs. the 3 series. As an owner of a 3 series, I can also tell you that the C class has a more solid feel to it in many ways - it is hard to describe, but there is a heft to it (but, since you claimed to have worked at a MB dealership, you should know that already ...right?). Anyway, I am looking to replace my 3 and have looked at the C partly because at any stoplight where I live you are bound to have another 3 next to you, behind you, and in the oncoming lane. They are sure better than the outgoing Lexus IS and there are no other RWD sedans in that size class really.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is the 2013 model? It already looks 10 year old.
      • 2 Years Ago
      $42k for a four-pot MB the size of a Civic? Cheet mang, I'd rather "invest" in hookers and blow. . . at least I wouldn't be ashamed to tell my friends where the money went.
        • 2 Years Ago
        You're right. What sounds better? "I spent $42,000 on a Mercedes-Benz?" or "I spent $42,000 on drugs, and to pay women would sleep with me." ?
          • 2 Years Ago
          Uh, I already told you which sounds better. Reread my original post if you're still wondering. BTW, didn't you agree with me when you said, "You're right."? I'm so confused.
      Adrian Elliot
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's just so unattractive.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow halogen headlights with an AMG package
      dearest rat
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Its most expensive option was the Dynamic Sport package ($3,050), which added the unique seven split-spoke 18-inch wheels, AMG rear spoiler..." ... "The remaining two options were the rear decklid spoiler ($300)..." I'm a bit confused by this, it may look stupid as hell, but if I'm paying for two spoilers, I want two spoilers on my car!
        Michael Harley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @dearest rat
        Yes, that was a bit odd. I am sure ordering the "upgraded" spoiler replaces the "standard" spoiler (though I have no idea what the first one would look like). Two spoilers = twice the downforce! - Mike
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